A good and holy priest is the reason I am able to write this at the beginning of 2009. I owe my life to him. The strange thing about this priest is that he died in 1957, the year before I was born. However, in 2000 I was driving on an interstate in Southern Indiana in a torrential rain, when suddenly my Ford Explorer off the road by a sudden gust of wind. As I spun wildly toward the oncoming traffic in the West bound lane, I saw my life pass before my eyes. Then, almost as suddenly as the whole incident had unfolded, I found myself back in the East bound lane heading in the right direction. A holy card with the image of Father Solanus Casey stood in front of me—completely upright.
My legs were shaking as I tried to regain my composure, and the thought entered my mind that God had something for me to do—and that Father Solanus had interceded for me at that moment.
I first heard of Father Solanus Casey in 1985, while on retreat with Father Benedict Groeschel. Father Benedict spent his novitiate at St. Felix Friary in Huntington, IN back in the 1950’s. He had witnessed many miraculous events in Father Solanus’ presence. Years later when commenting on the skepticism of modern people, and sadly some scholars, about the miraculous incidents related in the Bible, Father Benedict commentedthat this was never a problem for him. Referring to the years he had lived with Father Solanus Casey he said, “I lived with the New Testament.”
Providentially, I took a job in 1999, in Huntington, IN—leaving the beloved South. I worked for a Catholic publishing house. On my lunch breaks I travelled to the former St. Felix Friary and walked the grounds while reading about Fr. Solanus. In Christ, who told His followers, “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die,” (John 11:26), Father Solanus becamea good friend of mine.
A few years ago, the Capuchin pastor of St. Peter and Paul in Huntington, Father Ron, was called to the home of an older married couple who were evangelical Protestants.They called Father Ron because it seemed that a Catholic priest had visited their home and offered them counsel. They wondered if Father Ron knew the priest, so they could thank him for coming.
The lady of the house told Father Ron that her husband was dying of cancer. He had difficulty sleeping and often slept in the living room at night. On this particular night she heard him talking out loud, seemingly in conversation. The next morning she found him asleep, with a pile of nut shells on the table next to him. There was another pile of nut shells near a sofa table.
The man related that during the night when he was in incredible pain, a Franciscan priest had walked into the living room and asked him how he was doing. They ate nuts, while talking about God and life. The priest told the man that he was going to die very soon and he needed to get ready to meet God. The brown robed friar left the house early in the morning. Did Father Ron know the identity of this Franciscan priest?
They described him in great detail,and Father Ron racked his brain trying to figure out who they might have encountered. Finally he pulled out a holy card of Father Solanus, “Does this look anything like the priest?”
The man spoke up at once, “Not only does it look like him, it is him! Where can I get in contact with him again?”
Father Ron explained that Father Solanus had died over forty years ago.
Father Ron later told me that the man with cancer lived a few more months after his meeting.
Father Solanus once said, “Life here in the exile seems so short and uncertain, that it seems like it ought to have another name.” The older I get, the comparison that our earthly pilgrimage is likened to an “exile” makes more sense to me.
New Year’s is a time of making resolutions. I pray that God may bless each of you with the insight into the mission that He has for you and for me. May we all like Father Solanus Casey bring joy into the lives of those we touch.I wish you a Happy and Blessed New Year!